Friday, November 26, 2010

Principles for Good Governance and Ethical Practice

There are two things I really, really like!  Finding excellent nonprofit resource materials and then finding out they are free!  While the "Principles for Good Governance and Ethical Practice: A Guide for Charities and Foundations" was originally published by the Independent Sector in 2007, the "Priniciples" remain the same. 

There are four sections to the guide:

  1. Legal Compliance and Public Disclosure
  2. Effective Governance
  3. Strong Financial Oversight
  4. Responsible Fundraising
You can download the entire document for free at the Independent Sector website.  I urge you to download it and share it with your Board of Directors.  Consider it a check list for best practices.  The following is from the first section, Legal Compliance and Public Disclosure.  Enjoy!  Bunnie

  • A charitable organization must comply with all applicable federal laws and regulations, as well as applicable laws and regulations of the states and the local jurisdictions in which it is based or operates. If the organization conducts programs outside the United States, it must also abide by applicable international laws, regulations and conventions that are legally binding on the United States.

  • A charitable organization should have a formally adopted, written code of ethics with which all of its directors or trustees, staff and volunteers are familiar and to which they adhere.

  • A charitable organization should adopt and implement policies and procedures to ensure that all conflicts of interest, or the appearance thereof, within the organization and the board are appropriately managed through disclosure, recusal, or other means.

  • A charitable organization should establish and implement policies and procedures that enable individuals to come forward with information on illegal practices or violations of organizational policies. This “whistleblower” policy should specify that the organization will not retaliate against, and will protect the confidentiality of, individuals who make good-faith reports.

  • A charitable organization should establish and implement policies and procedures to protect and preserve the organization’s important documents and business records.

  • A charitable organization’s board should ensure that the organization has adequate plans to protect its assets—its property, financial and human resources, programmatic content and material, and its integrity and reputation—against damage or loss. The board should review regularly the organization’s need for general liability and directors’ and officers’ liability insurance, as well as take other actions necessary to mitigate risks.

  • A charitable organization should make information about its operations, including its governance, finances, programs and activities, widely available to the public. Charitable organizations also should consider making information available on the methods they use to evaluate the outcomes of their work and sharing the results of those evaluations.


  1. Bunnie,
    Thanks for sharing the information about the Panel on the Nonprofit Sector's October 2007 Principles for Good Governance and Ethical Practice: A Guide for Charities and Foundations. There was a follow up to this in 2009, The Principles Workbook: Steering Your Board Toward Good Governance and Ethical Practice. This was done jointly with Independent Sector and BoardSource. Diana Kern, Vice President, NEW(Nonprofit Enterprise at Work)

  2. Bunnie, this is a wealth of information both for new board members and those who just need a refresher. I hope that everyone will heed your advice to share with their own Board!

  3. Excellent info. This sort of thing needs to be required reading for all nonprofit leaders.

  4. A shout out for a great resource and free!! Also two of my favorite things.

    Thanks for sharing, Bunnie.